How do you cope when your heart is being ripped out over your wayward child? I know first-hand the unimaginable grief and heartbreak this brings. I am also very well acquainted with the grief, blame, heart-ache, regret, condemnation of others, and longing desires for brighter days that are associated with it. I hope my being completely transparent here can offer a glimpse of hope to someone, and shed the light of education on the topic for others. I’m not looking for anyone to agree or disagree with me. That’s not the purpose of this. This is just a compilation of my thoughts.
The older I get the less I care about what others think. I don’t mean that in a ruthless nor a cold-hearted manner, but rather in a direct and intentional, premeditated method and approach to dealing with the heartache of disappointment.
Kids are not required to be appreciative, thankful, or grateful for that matter – simply because they never asked to be born into this world. That was our decision. What they are required to do and be is respectful. And if they cannot be respectful in attitude, tone, and actions, then they need to be put into a place of depreciation that will help them learn the value of such.
This statement has been replaying in my head ever sense I heard it yesterday. It has been very thought provoking. It may appear at first glance to be very calloused and cold. At first I thought the same. But after thinking on it for a while, my initial thoughts have changed.
Growing up I was always told that I didn’t have to agree with every decision my parents made. What I did have to do was to be respectful and honor my mom and dad. That was my God-given responsibility and commission. Being respectful and honoring did not in any way take away from my individuality and right to have a different opinion. It did however show that I had reverence for authority placed in my life regardless of deferential opinions I may possess. It did show that I was courteous and polite. My mom always told me that she was open to my expressing my opinion as long as it was done in a reverential matter. It wasn’t so much what I said – but how I said it. With that said, sometimes it doesn’t matter what you are saying or how you are saying it. Some things are simply and undeniably – jaw-dropping disrespectful, even when said in jest. From the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak! It is a heart issue that must be dealt with.
We live in a society that always wants to point the finger of blame to the parents for unruly and disrespectful / out of control kids and teenagers. Add to that the extreme burden and weight of guilt the parent carries already thinking, “where did I go wrong” or “what could I have done differently” or “what is wrong with me”. I must respectfully disagree with this theory and mind-set, as well as this self-condemnation, from personal experience. I don’t claim to be perfect – in reality, I’m probably the most complete mess of a person there ever was. (which is exactly where God desires us to be, because he takes our mess and makes it into a masterpiece) With that being said, I know that sometimes you can do everything right and it still isn’t enough. That’s because sometimes it is a heart issue. Sometimes it stems from outside influences you have no control over. We can train up a child all we want to, but when the rubber hits the road it is still the reality of the fact that WE CANNOT CONTROL THE ACTIONS OF ANOTHER. WE CANNOT TELL SOMEONE ELSE’S HEART HOW TO BE! We simply cannot. No matter how hard we try to instill morals, values, respect, dignity, honor, reverence, etc… into our children, at the end of the day they are their own person, designed by God, with free will and the ability to make their own choices – and they will make their own decisions. (this is how God designed all of us – with the ability to think and make our own choices) This is where we as parents have to trust that someday our investment will yield a return. I think this is the epitome of the phrase “Let Go and Let God”!
Some may not agree with me. To those I’d like to say you do not know that of which you speak or pass judgment on. I learned a long time ago that things are not always as they appear; especially on social media. I reserve my judgment for the things that God says we rightfully should judge, and nothing else. Condemnation is not mine to give to anyone. No parent holds up a newborn baby and says – “I hope they become a troubled out-of-control teen one day”. Parents are full of hopes and dreams for their children. Unfortunately, despite parents’ best efforts, it’s possible for a teenager to exhibit some terribly frightening behaviors. They can be verbally aggressive and disrespectful, refusing to play their part in the family or participate unless things are going “their” way. They can deploy plans to make everyone around them miserable unless they are getting “their” way. They can be hateful with their words, trying to make sure others “know their place” in their world. An out-of-control teen may be verbally or physically abusive, dive into dark worlds of drugs and alcohol, drop out of school or run away from home. He or she might acquire a criminal record. Parents may feel helpless and hopeless when it comes to the troubled teenager in their family, and it’s unlikely that there’s a quick fix or a cure. It’s a heart issue. There is an old saying – You can lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you are trying. But that doesn’t mean we give up either. Draw healthy boundary lines – YES! Give up – NO!
It’s heart-breaking to say the least – raising, or trying your best- to raise an unruly out-of-control teen. Having a child is momentous. It’s deciding forever to have your heart walk around outside of your body. Our children are our hearts! The worst nightmare of many parents is to have a rebel — a kid who makes her own destructive way through life, ignoring everything they’ve ever been taught, refusing to abide by any rules, causing chaos in all of the lives they touch. The fear is so great that some parents stress over everything their teens do, taking even normal behavior as a sure sign that their kids are headed for the edge of the cliff. Other parents do the opposite. They ignore obvious warning signs, hoping it’s a phase their kids will grow out of.
At the end of the day we have to remember: 1) We cannot control our teen’s choices. They alone decide if they want to listen in class and complete their work. They alone decide if they are going to make healthy food choices when away from your supervision. They alone decide if they want to dabble in drugs and alcohol. They alone decide if they want to study or cheat on a test. They alone decide if they want to be successful or the class clown. We can give them all the necessary resources and tools, but in the end – there is nothing we can do about it. They will make their own choices and learn to live with the natural-logical consequences of such. 2) We have to learn to art of relinquishment. This means learning to let go. Learning to LET GO and LET GOD. This may mean releasing our dreams and hopes and desires for what WE wanted for our child. We give up control and leave the results to God. 3) Obtaining help if necessary. If we broke our arm, we’d naturally go see a doctor to receive treatment. So why are so many people ashamed of seeking help for issues such as this? Could it be the stigma that society places on it? Could it be the mantel of disgrace that society cast upon people dealing with this? What a shame! What a shame that society designs their own little box of what is NORMAL and cast out everyone who doesn’t fit their mold. 4) Sometimes extreme measures have to be taken for the good and health of everyone involved. It doesn’t matter what other people think. People are going to think what they want to think and believe what they want to believe, so don’t waste your time and energy here. Do what must be done. It’s not an easy decision and one that no parent should ever be faced with. Yet it’s the reality of the world we live in. The most important thing to remember is safety for all involved. 5) Don’t be afraid to let others know what you are dealing with. So often we are too scared to let others know because of the veil of shame that is cast upon us. “what will people think?” DOES IT MATTER? “they will think I am a failure and talk about us.” DOES IT MATTER? God sees and knows all and His opinion is the only one that matters! Don’t share with gossipmongers, but be real. Pain shared is lessened. Shared joy is increased. People were made to be in relationship with each other. That is God’s design. 6) Allow yourself some enjoyment and don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t put yourself into suspended animation of barely hanging on. You don’t have to suffer until there is resolution. You don’t have to feel guilty about having fun. You simply can’t keep going on in life without being recharged. 7) Hold on to your core values. Know what you believe in. Take a stand. Don’t back down and don’t become weary. Don’t let a continuing crisis wear you down. Did you believe before that God knew you, right down to the number of hairs on your head? Guess what – He still does. 8) Be relentless. Never give up. Move forward no matter what. Pray, Love, and never give up. Draw the lines of what is and isn’t acceptable. Always love. Without love we are nothing and have nothing. Love unconditionally. Stick with the things you know are right. Don’t be moved. Stand your ground. Stay the course. Love, but draw the line and be set on the fact that you will not allow abuse, violence, aggression, etc…. Take the necessary steps in the face of adversity to protect. 9) Be tough and tender. Have thick skin with a sensitive heart. That is especially true when dealing with the comments of others. Even well-meaning people can say hurtful things in ignorance. Ignorance is not a bad thing – but it does mean they do not know that which they speak of. Don’t let their barbs penetrate.
Above all, hold fast to the belief that we have not failed and we are not defective, no matter how many of our children’s stinging words and actions may try to reiterate the belief that we are. Maintaining joy in the midst of such heart-breaking adversity is never easy. Some days are better than others. Some days, despite encouragement, I feel so very low. But I am reminded that true joy isn’t conjured up by outward circumstance, but rather from deep within from a personal relationship with Christ. So I will go to the Rock. Every day I will go back to the Rock. It is there I draw my strength.